Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let's Go to Bethlehem and See

Recently I traveled to Israel. I had the opportunity to visit Bethlehem. In preparing for this event and because of this event I wrote the following poem.

Let’s Go to Bethlehem and See

By Brent Cloyd, 2014

Come travel to the town of Bethlehem with me
Let’s observe the venue, reflect upon what we see

 I see a place where politics is harsh and shrewd
Where feeling forgotten, people have a vile mood

I see an Emperor who made a great decree
Go home take the census; you owe taxes to me

I see a young man, responsible, able, and proud
Who complied with the order, did not complain loud

I see significance in his ancestral line
The connection must be claimed, they could not decline

I see a young woman, greatly pregnant with child
Her time would come soon; the journey would not be mild

I see a man and woman, tested but in love
Confused, yet convinced of their mission from above

I see a crowded town without a lodging place
For poor strangers there was little mercy or grace

I see the pain of labor, loneliness, and stress
With groans, desire, and effort; a birth did progress

I see a happy face, immaculate with joy
Overflowing with love for a her baby boy

I see a stable, filled with the stench of manure
No place for a new born, vulnerable and pure

I see a child lying on a mattress of hay
Who humbly had arrived in the natural way

I see a baby wrapped securely in strips of cloth
One sent from heaven resting in a feeding trough
I see a proud mother gazing at her first born
Unaware that others will stare at him with scorn

I see a town that ignorantly missed the sign
Thus ignored the presence of this infant divine

I see shepherds on guard in the dark of the field
Keeping watch over their flocks with protecting shield

I see night interrupted by an angels face
As the glory of the Lord was shone in that place

I see heavenly beings with great news to proclaim
The joy of one who surpasses every name

I see a choir of angels as their voices ring
Glory to God in the highest heaven they sing

I see them praising God in sounds of sweet release
God sends His favor, in Messiah there is peace

I see shepherds, curious, gazing, with minds stunned
Leaving their flocks at night to see what had been done

I see action, let’s go to town right now and see
This savior the angels sang about with such glee
I see a young family, a man and his wife
Loving and guarding their child, in a world of strife

I see shepherds, with amazing joy in their eyes
Who left telling a story of this great surprise

I see a mother treasuring the day’s events
Pondering her involvement in God’s great intents

I see myself, a sinner, as part of the story
Praise Jesus my savior, to God be the glory.




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thanks, Mrs. Griffin

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Wilma Griffin. We were kin. She and my Dad were first cousins. I was somewhat proud of being related to my teacher. But I was also a bit afraid of her. Though I held our kinship in my back pocket not once did I ever play that card. I had a lot of respect for Mrs. Griffin. Even as an adult, if I were to see her in a family setting I could not call her by her first name. She was always Mrs. Griffin to me. I learned a lot of things in that first g...rade classroom in the basement of East Bernstadt School. I had perfect attendance and made decent grades. But the lessons were routine enough and came easy enough for me that the specifics of them do not stand out. But twice that year Mrs. Griffin stood before our class and made an announcement that left an indelible impression on me. One day she got our attention and told us that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. Later that year she told us that our school would be integrated the next year meaning that we would have black boys and black girls in our class the next fall. I do not remember raising my hand and asking any questions about either of these announcements. I think I had a pretty good understanding of what they meant. I knew they were both big events that altered my world.
Mrs. Griffin died this last week. She was 92. I had not seen or spoken to her for close to 30 years. But in the course of those years my mind has gone back to that first grade class room many times. Yes, teaching is important. Teachers do make a difference. Thanks, Mrs. Griffin.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Not Schmoozing but Snoozing

My flight this past Tuesday evening from Anchorage to Minneapolis left at 9:50 PM Anchorage time to arrive in Minneapolis around 5:50 AM central time. It is a red eye flight and I am hoping to catch a nap. I am grateful that I have an aisle seat. I board the plane, find my seat, and take note that the person I will be sitting by is a distinguished looking man. As the plane begins to taxi to the runway I engage in conversation with him. “Are you from here or going home"? I ask.... “I am from here in Anchorage” he replies. “What do you do”? I ask. And he replies: “I am the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. But my term ends in December”. I ponder in my mind the chances of my meeting this man in this way. I continued the conversation by asking him his thoughts on the upcoming election. We talk about politics for a couple of minutes. But it is time for take off and he seems more interested in getting his nap than in continuing the conversation. So after we are in the air, I unfold my blanket, put my seat back, and try to catch a few zees. So I really cannot say that I schmoozed with the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. But I did snooze with him.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ole Jacks

On Tuesday I had seven hours from the time I arrived in Anchorage from Pilot Station, AK where daughter lives until my flight back home to Illinois. So I left the airport, took a cab to downtown and explored a bit of the city. I visited a museum and then walked down the street to the mall. I visited every floor but I am not a mall kind of guy. I left the mall from the 5th Avenue exit. I immediately saw a sign that read “Fur Alaska”. I found my way across the street and entered the shop. There I met “Ole Jacks”. That is how introduced himself when I asked his name. He said I used to be “young Jacks” but now I am 80 so I am “Ole Jacks”. The store appears a bit cluttered. One whole wall is covered with newspaper clippings and pictures from times past. Jack himself is sitting in a tiny passage way between two counters partially hidden by a stack of magazines. We begin to visit and he tells me his story. He is native Alaskan. He has lived here all his live except for the time he worked for President Truman during the Korean War. When he came home he went in the fur business trapping and buying furs, selling some and making others into clothing. He got his pilots license so he could travel into far away and remote places in the Alaska interior to buy furs. Alaska is God’s country he tells me at least a dozen times. “Ole Jacks” is good at what he does. I am guessing that fur coats are his specialty. He has made fur coats for Presidents Ford and Reagan and for a Japanese president and for former Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev. He proudly shows me a picture of Brezhnev wearing his coat in the presence of President Ford. “If I can measure a man I can make it fit” he says. He asks about where I am from and what I am doing in Alaska. I tell him I have come to visit my daughter who is a teacher in Alaska and he is interested in how she is doing. We visit for probably 20 minutes. I am pretty sure I cannot afford one of his fur coats. He must know that as well because he does not try to sell me one. Before I leave he says “I think you are a salt of the earth man from Illinois”. I am thinking this man is a salt of Alaska’s earth. I have traveled a lot of places and what I enjoy most about travel are the people I meet, often by chance encounter, along the way. Cab fare from the airport to downtown cost me $40 but meeting Ole Jacks is far more valuable than that. If you go to Anchorage you ought to stop in at Fur Alaska 329 W. 5th Avenue. Maybe Ole Jacks will be there.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tiny Pulpits

A few months back I was rummaging through a closet at church and I discovered a tiny pulpit. It was amateurishly hand made from simple pine boards and plywood. My first thought was this is for a very short preacher. Or perhaps someone made it so children could play church. I was curious so measured it. It was 23 inches from the ground to the top lip. I discovered later that due to lack of Sunday School classroom space, someone, many years ago, had been forced to teach their class in the back corner of the sanctuary. So he made the short pulpit, placed it in the seat of probably the 4th pew from the back of the church and used it as a lectern from which he taught his class who sat in the three back pews of the church.

My junk closet discovery is physically the tiniest pulpit I have ever seen. But I am afraid I have seen other pulpits that in reality are smaller than this one. In ministerial terms to say someone occupies a large pulpit means they preach from a place of prominence and great influence. It might mean they preach to a large church. In this sense the size of the pulpit defines the size of the pulpiteer. In a more fair world the pulpiteer would define the size of the pulpit but it does not always work that way.

In terms of what I have just described I have never occupied what I would call a large pulpit, though I have occupied some that were larger than the one I currently occupy. But I have tried to use the pulpit properly, though I am sure I have sometimes failed to do so. I have tried not to think about the size of the pulpit. Instead I have tried to focus on and judge myself as the pulpiteer. I may have a small pulpit but I do not want to be a small pulpiteer.

Ever since I found the tiny pulpit in the church junk closet I have been mulling over this thought. The question I keep asking myself is “what makes, or what determines, a tiny pulpit”? Or to ask it another way “what makes or determines a large pulpit”? I have thought of about 15 answers to that question and each answer has merit. I am not through exploring this question but here is my thought for today. The size of the pulpit is determined by the heart and soul and character of the pulpiteer who occupies the pulpit. If the pulpiteer does not believe in and have passion for the truth that he or she proclaims they are small pulpiteers and have made their pulpit small. And if they have no love in their hearts for the people they preach to then they are indeed little preachers occupying a tiny pulpit.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Adventures in Pilot Station

My daughter Brittney made the move to her new home in Alaska this week. After a long flight she arrived in Anchorage last Sunday evening. She spent the next two mornings participating in new teacher in-service and spent the afternoons taking care of details like buying a semester’s worth of groceries, obtaining an Alaska driver’s license, registering to vote, etc. Then on Wednesday she made the 450 air mile journey from Anchorage to Pilot Station Alaska. The last leg of that journey was in a six passenger Cessna. She was impressed that she got to ride in the co-pilot seat. Pilot station is a native Alaskan fishing village, population 800, located along the Yukon River. There is no highway system. It is accessible by boat or by air.

The locals were out in mass to meet them upon their arrival as were a multitude of dogs with their litters of pups. I deprived her of pets growing up but as an adult she has developed a fondness for dogs. She will be living in a three bedroom house that she shares with another teacher. She says the area is pretty. She quickly went to work setting up her new home and is fast making friends with both the local population and the school personnel. The local hangout is the AC store, which is part of a chain of stores that operates in remote Alaska villages. She has made several trips there and bought a coffee mug in which she can get free refills. She has tasted pilot bread. She has learned to use a propane stove and has baked her own bread. She bought a package of Reindeer meat and cooked and sampled some of it. She went to the river at the time when the local fishermen give out free Salmon. I never taught her to fish. But with a little instruction she managed to clean her own fish “I cut its head off and took its guts out Daddy.” It was a big fish. She cut it into 11 pieces, froze 10 of them and cooked the other piece. She reported that it was good. Today she and some other teachers picked some wild berries and they are hoping for another free Salmon.

She is an adventuresome soul. I did not let her have pets when she was growing up and I did not take her fishing. But I did try to teach her to dream and to explore and to not be afraid. Next week she will fly to another village in the school district for new teacher meetings and the next week she will be making preparations at her school. Then the school year will begin. I am confidant that she will do well. She is a brave young lady. I wish I had been as brave as she is when I was her age.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A visit to My Father's Grave

It is 235 miles from my house to Georgetown, KY. Not a bad trek, especially if you have a good chauffer, which I do. My wife does most of the driving on trips. As long as I will buy her Starbucks along the way she does not complain. Yesterday after church we made the drive to KY, spent the night with my Aunt Lorna, and today went to the Georgetown Cemetery to place flowers on my father’s grave. This was only the second time I had been there since we buried him last September. The sod was growing nicely where the earth had been disturbed last fall. The date of his death, September 5, 2013 had been etched into the stone. The location is peaceful and quite. The grounds are well kept.

I am quite certain that my father was unaware of my visit to his burial site. He is experiencing a new reality in a joyful eternal place. But love and respect for my father and a lingering grief compelled me to travel the distance and spend a few moments at the spot where he is buried. I placed a simple arrangement of flowers at his stone just to say “I love you Dad”. I suppose that is not necessary. Maybe it is a lot of effort for a small and brief gesture. I guess it is a bit of an old fashion thing to do. Perhaps that is all true. But my dad was an old fashion guy and I am a chip off the old block. So I did it – one old fashion guy to another old fashion guy!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Dancing with Life

When my daughter was a daisy girl scout her troop had a father-daughter dance. No moms allowed. Just dads and their five and six-year old daughters. She bought a new dress and put ribbons in her hair. I bought her a corsage. I put on my best suit and on a Saturday night, on the eve of Sunday morning, we went to the dance. One of the deacons from my church was there with his daughter. We gave each other a gloriously devious grin and we held our daughters in our arms and we danced. I could show you pictures to prove it. But all the proofs I need are the lingering images of my daughters smiling face. That is the only time I ever took my daughter to a dance. But we have done a lot of things together. In those times I tried to teach her how to dance the dance of life. I sought to show her how to dance to the tune of God’s call on her life. She is all grown up now. Her professional career has taken her to the plains of western Kansas and to the ghettos of Mississippi. This fall she will venture into the bush country where she will teach school in the Native American village of Pilot Station, Alaska. People ask me, don’t you worry about her going that far away? Well yeah, but I am her daddy and I worry about a lot of things. But I would worry more if she did not dream and work to bring those dreams to fruition. When opportunity presents itself I do not want her to sit it out the dance. I want her to take hold of the adventures life offers. I want her to listen to the music that God places in her soul and dance to it! Life is not about sitting at the corner table and sipping sodas. It is about getting out on the dance floor. So get dressed for the dance girl! Extend your hands and partner with the opportunities in front of you. Let the Lord put his hand on your waist and follow His lead. Dance!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Cross and Apple Blossoms

I traveled to the bottom of the state of Illinois today to the town of Anna. I met with a group of pastors and we dialogued about evangelism. I decided to take a scenic route home. I drove on west about 5 miles and then headed north on IL Route 127. The next 25 miles is one of the most scenic in our state, especially this time of year when the apple trees are in full bloom. As my truck groaned up the hills I marveled at the freshness and newness of life.  I smiled at the potential of fruitfulness that danced upon the landscape. I glanced to the west and saw the large white cross perched atop a hill known as Bald Knob near Alto Pass, IL. I exited the highway and drove a winding road five miles through the timber and then walked to the foot of the cross. The wind was brisk so I did not stay long. But I tarried long enough to reflect upon how a cross, a cruel instrument of death, became God’s tool to bring life and salvation to the world. Since that time, while the cross may remind of us death, it has become a symbol of life and hope.

I have been weepy all day. In fact, I have been weepy for a week or so. I needed to see the apple blossoms. I needed to see the cross. I am not sure why I have been weepy as of late but I think it is because I have been feeling, or at least trying to feel, some of the pain that exist in the hearts of my brother Bryan, my sister in-law Renee, and my nephew Andrew. April 16, 2014 marks the 7th anniversary of my niece Austin Cloyd’s death. She was killed along with 31 others at the shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech University in 2007. Though I make a feeble attempt to feel their pain I cannot imagine the depth of their hurt. But through my weepiness I found hope today. The apple blossoms prove that winter has been overtaken by spring and summers warmth will bring a harvest. Life can be good even though it has been bad. And that cross on top of Bald Knob shouts to my soul. Death may have its sting, but Christ has the victory.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Faithful Servant

I just sneezed. Immediately my 28 year old autistic son Brock  got up from his chair and soon he was standing beside my desk with a box of Kleenex. It is the same pattern every time Brock hears my sneeze. The pattern got started I guess a couple of years ago when I sneezed and then asked Brock to get me a Kleenex. He graciously performed the task. Every since that time whenever I sneeze he will stop whatever he is doing, go to the bathroom and come back with the box of Kleenex. Sometimes I try to stop him by telling him that he does not need to do or that I do not need a Kleenex. But there is no stopping him. If he hears me sneeze he is off to the races to perform this service for me. He has been known to interrupt his meal or get out of bed at night to attend to my need. Service has become a habit for him. He appears to do it not just as a duty but with love and joy. The scriptures teach us that the greatest among us are those who serve others. I sure do have a great son.

But I am left to wonder this morning how difficult it seems for most of us to develop a pattern of being a servant. And when we do develop that pattern it often becomes a duty and drudgery rather than an exercise of love and joy. How easy it is to become weary in well doing. Being a servant is not the normal pattern of the general populous. Being a faithful servant is unusual. Yet we have been called to develop this attitude and to perform service to others. It is this rarity of becoming a servant that makes us great.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Thousand and Three Boxes of Girlscout Cookies

While driving down Main Street today I saw two girls standing in the cold and snow flurries dressed up as cookies. One was a Thin Mint and the other was a Samoa. I am a sucker for this scene. Not because I cannot live without the cookies. But because I appreciate the work of the Girl Scouts, like to support their work, and contribute to their entrepreneurial education. The look of satisfaction on the face of a Girl Scout when she makes a sale is worth the $4 price of the cookies. So today I drove around the block, stopped, chatted with the Girl Scouts, and bought 4 boxes. 

I have a soft spot for the Girl Scouts because of my experience with my daughter when she was a Girl Scout. She was the cookie seller and I was her sales manager. Honestly, I think I enjoyed the experience more than she did. I like selling things and I was determined I was going to make a salesperson out of her. I also had a rule that I was not going to sale them for her but that she had to make the contacts and take the orders. So on the first day of cookie sales we would hit the streets together and with my encouragement she would ring the door bell and when people came to the door she would ask “would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies”?  Some would buy and she would be happy. Some would say no and sometimes she would get multiple “no’s” in a row and would get a little discouraged. I tried to help her understand that often in life the answer was no and that a negative answer just gives you the opportunity to move on to the next door. We learned to take orders in places of business and that the orders were often larger there. She took her order sheet to church and found lots of friendly buyers there. We learned that repeat business was best and having secured phone numbers from the previous year’s sales sheet she was able to take a lot of orders by phone. Over the years she took special interest in some of her customers. Like the widower who lived a few blocks from us, had a house full of cats and always had to show her the weaving work he was doing with rugs. He would buy several boxes but the sale was never quick. You had to give him 15-20 minutes of your life. But he needed that and we were enriched by the experience. We thought she had sold a lot of cookies one year when she sold 737 boxes. But the next year she sold 1003 boxes. To put this in perspective, if you take the back two rows of seats out of a mini-van and fill it with 1003 boxes of cookies you have just enough room for the driver and the Girl Scout. Of course then you have to deliver all those cookies and collect the money. But when it was over she had helped her troop earn some money and she earned for herself some “cookie dough” to pay a large part of her way to summer Girl Scout Camp. Perhaps my daughter would say I was a tough sales manager. But for me it was a treasured experience that I got to share with her. And if I see Girl Scouts selling cookies I am going to buy some.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Souvenir Christianity

Last Sunday I shared about our Lord’s Supper service in which we used olive wood cups to serve the juice. I relayed how that after a two and one-half hour time lapse between filling the cups and partaking of the Lord’s Supper that some of the cups had completely absorbed the juice and that the juice having taken on the taste of the olive wood tasted bitter. Each participant took the used cup home with them as a souvenir. When the cups dried however we noticed that the juice had left a crimson stain. No amount of rinsing could wash it away. I noted that these facts reminded me of how we are supposed to absorb Christ and how having absorbed him our lives are changed. If Christ does absorb us we will be stained and that stain is His identifying mark upon us. I noted that the bitter taste of the juice reminded me of the bitter cross Christ had to bear. As followers of Christ we also are sometimes called upon to be involved in bitter work. My friend Pat Pajak told me afterwards that I should have used white grape juice and waited to fill the cups about 30 minutes before the Lord’s Supper service. That way less juice would be absorbed by the cup, it would not take on as much taste from the wood, and the cup would not be stained. That sounds like good logistical thinking. It would be less messy and the people could go home with a less blemished souvenir.  

On the other hand maybe we have just identified a problem of the Christian faith. We engage in to much souvenir Christianity. We have no desire to absorb very much of Christ. We come to worship looking for a small and quick dose of Christ and if we discover we got a little to much we can rinse it off. It does not change us much. Therefore it does not prepare us to taste the bitter cup of suffering nor does it compel us to drink the often bitter cup of service. It is a stainless faith. I guess that kind of faith makes a good souvenir. But it does not identify us and it does not make much difference in the world.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Memorable Lord's Supper

We celebrated the Lord’s Supper last Sunday morning. We served the juice in cups made of olive wood that had been made in Bethlehem. I had bought the cups on my recent trip to Israel with the intent that after using them each partaker could take the cup home with them as a souvenir. It was a different experience with observations worthy of notice. We had filled the cups before the Sunday School hour. By the time we served the cup at the end of the worship time two and one-half hours had lapsed. When I stepped down from the platform to serve the Lord’s Supper I noticed that the olive wood cups had absorbed some of the juice. In fact a few of the cups had completely absorbed all the juice that had been poured into them. It occurred to me that as God’s chosen vessels we are to absorb Christ becoming more and more like Him each day. When we drank from the cup it tasted bitter. The fruit of the vine had taken on the flavor of olive wood. It reminded me of the bitter cup Christ had to drink in bearing our sin on the cross. From a different angle I thought of how the presence of Christ changes the flavor of our lives and how His love and mercy and grace and peace can change the flavor of the world. I thought of how Christ drank a bitter cup in order that the world might taste a sweeter cup. The folks took the now empty and juice saturated cups home with them. I took mine as well and sat it on my desk to dry. When it had dried it was left with a reddish stain. The stain reminds me of Christ’s mark upon our lives. For when we truly absorb Christ we are not the same. We have been changed. We are different. His mark is upon us. That mark is left to remind us of who we are. It is left to cause those whom we encounter to inquire about who we are.

What Should I Do With These Stones?

When I was in Israel I saw a lot of houses made with stone. Timber was scarce in Israel but stones were plentiful. I marveled at the stone structures of antiquity. It required skilled engineering and craftsmanship and an enormous amount of labor to build the theaters and arches and walls and roadways that are still with us today. They managed to turn rocks into an asset and did so without benefit of modern technology. I was amazed at the walls and buildings of Old Jerusalem. How did they get two and a half-ton rocks in place in order to build a high and mighty wall? I saw a rock in the rabbinical tunnel that was part of the retaining wall of the old temple area. It would have been at street level in the day of Jesus. That means I was looking at the same rock Jesus would have seen. It is calculated that it weighs 580 tons. How did they get it there in one piece? I do not know. But the ancients were really good at turning the common materials available into a valuable asset. But when you cut and craft stone there is going to be some waste. That means that somewhere there were piles of sharp, rough, jagged rocks lying around. They were not big enough to be useful but they were big enough to be dangerous. Maybe that is why one of the preferred methods of mob violence was stoning. We read that the Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus. It occurs to me that rocks when coupled with intelligence, desire, planning, skill, and hard work can be turned into walls and roads and buildings. But when anger and misunderstanding prevails rocks can be turned into weapons of destruction. We can pick up rocks to build or we can pick up rocks to kill. Makes me wonder what I am doing with the rocks that are strewn along the paths I walk.

Monday, February 10, 2014

At Galilee

I walked one day where Jesus trod
In a village along the shore
I stood upon a sloping hill
Where he preached to five thousand or more

I ventured out onto the sea
Where Peter and John plied their trade
With mine own eyes I saw the place
Where Jesus taught and disciples made

I viewed the hills panoramic
Stoic, stately, still, and compact
From this backdrop He gave meaning
To faith, hope, and love so abstract

I recalled Peter and the others
When a fierce wind they had to face
Then came Jesus on the water
Reaching His hand of saving grace

I thought of how much in common,
Though it has been two thousand years
We have with those who lived in that day
How Jesus still can calm our fears

Jesus did not consider great
Those who held power in their hand
But had respect and compassion
For the weary who worked the land

I was there with many travelers
In their tears I discovered a clue
In each was a burdensome story
They had only told to a few
As I looked upon the marvel
I sensed a word to my hungry soul
Take my yoke upon your shoulders
Together we will reach the goal.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Somewhere Near Here

While traveling in Israel I wrote a poem and shared the poem with our group at our last devotional time in the Jerusalem.

In old Jerusalem near cross and sepulcher
Transgressors and confessors searching for a cure
Weary Pilgrims assembled in this place ornate
Guilty, broken, sad, sickened, from life’s heavy weight

Here we remember how our sin once did molest
How selfish deeds and hateful thoughts God does detest
Yet for us sinners Christ in love performed His grace
His sacrificial work makes this a holy place

Somewhere near here religion organized deceit
They drug him to the pavement to make his end complete
Somewhere near here truth was twisted, justice denied
Somewhere near here, misinformed, crucified they cried

Somewhere near here with cruel whip his back was beat
Somewhere near here Rome drove nails in Christ’ hands and feet
Somewhere near here the savior wore thorns for a crown
Somewhere near here the savior’s blood trickled down

Somewhere near here they punctured a sword in his side
Somewhere near here for our sin our blessed savior died
Somewhere near here, hanging shamefully on a cross
Jesus was sacrificed to restore human loss

Here listening to vile words the crowd did sputter
An announcement of forgiveness he did utter
Here on these grounds the lamb without blemish or flaw
Orchestrated the salvation the Father foresaw

The execution done His body was removed
The task was now completed, the Father approved
In a tomb near here his slaughtered corpse was encased
Still, dead, and buried, His accomplishments erased

For three days in the dark of the earth he did lay
While the Sabbath left His friends to mourn in dismay
But on the third day, somewhere near here, before dawn
There came a rumble and He awoke without yawn
Somewhere near here before the daylights detection
Breath was restored in mighty resurrection
The women and the disciples saw him near here
Then to more than five-hundred he dared to appear
I’m quite impressed with these walls and decorations
But they provoke neither joy nor celebration
For I’m on a journey to see the saviors face
And perhaps that’s the lesson of this wondrous place

For nails, nor cross, rocks, or cave can keep Jesus still
Resurrected our savior moves around at will
He will not be confined to places around here
But where ever we go our living Lord is near.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Jar of Pennies

It was cold outside. Nevertheless I stopped long enough to stoop down and pick up a penny from the pavement. A penny is not worth much but I hate to walk by and leave money on the ground. I took it home and put it in my gallon jug of coins. It was just a penny. But it was a penny. Then I got curious to know how long it would take a penny to compound into some real money. I plugged these figures into a compound interest calculator: .01$ for 70 years at 10.83%. I chose 70 years, three score and ten, the number of “good years” that most of us can expect to live on this earth. I chose $10.83% because that was the annualized rate of return on the Dow Jones Industrial for the 32 year period between 1975 and 2007. That is a healthy rate of return, perhaps a little ambitious for a 70 year average, but not as optimistic as Warren Buffet might be. After inserting those figures I clicked “calculate” and discovered that a penny invested and compounded quarterly at 10.83% for 70 years would grow to $17.73. That is enough to take my wife out to eat at her favorite pizza restaurant. But of course she expects to go there more than once every 70 years.

But then I thought “what if I had a gallon jug of pennies”? I wondered how many pennies that would be. So I googled it and discovered that a gallon jar would hold around 50,000 pennies - $50 worth. Using the same figures of 10.83% compounded quarterly for 70 years I again clicked calculate. The results were a little more encouraging. My hypothetical jar of pennies invested for 70 years would grow to $88, 628.68. I think I will continue picking up pennies.

It occurs to me that life is somewhat like a jar of pennies. Maybe we even think of ourselves as being as common as a copper penny. Even if that were true, which it surely is not, we should be able to see that we have value.  And if that value is properly harnessed we can do wonderful things. There are two things that every person has in common in life. We all have time and we all have opportunity. We do not all have the same amount of time. We do not all have the same amount of opportunity. But we all have some measure of each. My life may only be a jar of pennies. But it is a jar of pennies. If we will learn to make the most of our time and take advantage of our opportunities life will compound into something beneficial.

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